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Summary "Action Theory" as it is used here is the sub-area in the philosophy of action/agency that is concerned chiefly with the foundations of the broader sub-discipline. Central problems include the nature and scope of intentional action and agency, the explanation of action, and our knowledge of our actions. Most of the other problems that fall within the scope of this category at PhilPapers are closely related to such foundational questions.
Key works [BROKEN REFERENCE: DORRAC-2w]#DORRAC-2Perhaps the two most influential works that have shaped the current state of action theory are Anscombe 1957 and Davidson 1963. Davidson's essay is the locus classicus for the causal theory of action and for causalism about reason-explanations of actions. Anscombe's book has been influential among proponents of non-causal theories of action and reason-explanation. For a classic defense of the agent-causal perspective, see Chisholm 1966. And for a volitionist perspective, see McCann 1974. Some collections of essays that may help readers get a sense of the major debates in action theory today include Mele 1997, Aguilar & Buckareff 2010, Aguilar & Buckareff 2009, and D'Oro & Sandis 2013.
Introductions The following are good places to start to for those looking for guides to the current state of the art in action theory. Mele 2005 Mele 1992 Wilson 2008
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  1. Forrest E. Baird (1992). Human Thought and Action. Upa.
    A book of readings in Western intellectual history focusing on the role of reason in human action. Contents:^ Plato: Myth of the Cave; Plato: ^IThe Four Virtues; Aristotle: Knowledge of Causes; Aristotle: The Types of Governments; Epicurus: Epicureanism; Epictetus: Stoicism; St. Augustine: The Platonist; St. Augustine: The Nature of Sources of Evil; St. Thomas Aquinas: The Four Laws; St. Thomas Aquinas: The Nature of the Soul; Pico: The Oration on the Dignity of Man; John Calvin: Reason, Sin and Illumination; St. (...)
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  2. S. J. Boey (2013). De dubbele oorspronkelijkheid Van blondels “action”. Bijdragen 24 (2):130-153.
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  3. The Editor (1896). Voluntary Action. Mind 5 (19):354-366.
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  4. A. Edwards (2009). Agency and Activity Theory: From the Systemic to the Relational. In Annalisa Sannino, Harry Daniels & Kris D. Gutierrez (eds.), Learning and Expanding with Activity Theory. Cambridge University Press. 197--211.
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  5. Jim Edwards (1991). Explaining Human Action. Philosophical Books 32 (2):110-111.
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  6. K. Fine & Nicholas Rescher (1970). The Logic of Decision and Action. Philosophical Quarterly 20 (80):287.
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  7. Antony Flew (1959). Determinism and Rational Behaviour. Mind 68 (271):377-382.
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  8. Richard Foley (1977). Deliberate Action. Philosophical Review 86 (1):58-69.
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  9. Denis Forest (2007). Bain et les théories centralistes de l'action et de la conscience d'agir. Revue d'Histoire des Sciences 2:357-374.
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  10. Stephan Fuchs (2001). Beyond Agency. Sociological Theory 19 (1):24-40.
    The reason why agency/structure and micro/macro debates remain unresolved is the bad essentialist habit of treating such pairs as opposite natural kinds. Once variation is allowed, agency and structure, or micro and macro, are temporary poles bracketing a continuum, with social entities moving along this continuum over time. Explaining these transformations from agency into structure, or micro into macro, and vice versa is the challenge for explanatory theory. This challenge is met by switching to a constructivist level of second-order observing. (...)
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  11. Ryoji Fujimoto & Chang-Bong Choi, Interpretation of Action and Sociality of Action.
    SOCREAL 2010: 2nd International Workshop on Philosophy and Ethics of Social Reality. Sapporo, Japan, 2010-03-27/28. Session 3: Responsibility and Collective Agency.
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  12. Robert I. Gannon (1944). Action This Day. Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 19 (3):389-392.
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  13. Linda C. Garro (2010). By the Will of Others or by One's Own Action? In Keith M. Murphy & C. Jason Throop (eds.), Toward an Anthropology of the Will. Stanford University Press. 69--100.
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  14. G. Nigel Gilbert & Peter Abell (1983). Accounts and Action. Monograph Collection (Matt - Pseudo).
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  15. Claude Giraud (1994). Concepts d'Une Sociologie de l'Action Introduction Raisonnée. Monograph Collection (Matt - Pseudo).
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  16. Alvin Ira Goldman (1965). Action. Dissertation, Princeton University
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  17. Ana Marta González, Action in a Narrow and in a Broad Sense.
    The purpose of this chapter is to clarify the difference between deliberate action and spontaneous action, and see how Aristotle, Aquinas, Hume and Kant approach this topic.
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  18. Michael John Gorr (1975). The Structure of Human Action. Dissertation, Brown University
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  19. Scott T. Grafton & Richard B. Ivry (2004). 32 The Representation of Action. In Michael S. Gazzaniga (ed.), The Cognitive Neurosciences Iii. Mit Press. 441.
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  20. Richard L. Gregory (1987). Seeing in Action. Cogito 1 (3):6-10.
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  21. Donald F. Gustafson (1989). Intention and Agency. Noûs 23 (2):279-281.
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  22. B. J. H. (1962). Foresight and Understanding. Review of Metaphysics 15 (3):530-530.
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  23. Afsaneh Haddadi & Kurt Sundermeyer (1996). Belief-Desire-Intention Agent Architectures. In N. Jennings & G. O'Hare (eds.), Foundations of Distributed Artificial Intelligence. Wiley. 169--185.
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  24. Adrian Haddock (2011). The Knowledge That a Man has of His Intentional Actions. In Anton Ford, Jennifer Hornsby & Frederick Stoutland (eds.), Essays on Anscombe's Intention. Harvard University Press.
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  25. Lawrence Hamilton (2009). 45 Needs and Agency. In Jan Peil & Irene van Staveren (eds.), Handbook of Economics and Ethics. Edward Elgar. 340.
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  26. Patricia Ann Handwerk (1968). An Investigation of the Concept of Action. Dissertation, The Ohio State University
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  27. A. H. Hannay (1941). Action. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 42:141 - 150.
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  28. Heinz Heckhausen & Julius Kuhl (1985). From Wishes to Action: The Dead Ends and Short Cuts on the Long Way to Action. In Michael Frese & John Sabini (eds.), Goal Directed Behavior: The Concept of Action in Psychology. L. Erlbaum Associates. 10--134.
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  29. T. Y. Henderson (1966). The Gap Between Good Strategy and Right Action. Philosophy 41 (157):260 - 267.
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  30. Cecilia Heyes & Anthony Dickinson (1990). The Intentionality of Animal Action. Mind and Language 5 (1):87–103.
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  31. Alexander Hill (1800). From Reflex Action to Volition.
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  32. Martin Hollis (1977). The Self in Action. In R. S. Peters (ed.), John Dewey Reconsidered. Routledge and Kegan Paul. 56--75.
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  33. Rosalind Hursthouse (1969). The Logic of Decision and Action. Philosophical Books 10 (1):24-26.
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  34. Don Ihde (1994). Action Into Nature. International Studies in Philosophy 26 (1):104-105.
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  35. Patricia Mary Lourdes Illingworth (1985). Consequences and Privileged Act Descriptions. Dissertation, University of California, Irvine
    In the dissertation I provide an account of action descriptions which emphasizes their role as explanations of consequences. By showing that consequences are ascribed to an action under a description, and only when that description can explain the consequence, I undermine the view that consequences are brute events. Roughly, I reason as follows. If consequences were brute events, then their ascription to an action wouldn't hinge on how we understand the action. We could, for instance, say in ordinary circumstances "John (...)
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  36. Tracy Lynn Isaacs (1992). Actions and Events: A Study in Ontology and Ethics. Dissertation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    The philosophy of action is about agents and actions. As such, it has both a metaphysical and an ethical dimension. My dissertation is divided into three papers. ;The first is wholly metaphysical, concentrating on the ontology of actions. I explore the relationship between actions reported by a certain class of "by" -sentences and argue that the relationship is identity. ;The second paper concerns the bearing that ontological conclusions about actions have on ethics. I argue that, except for the claim that (...)
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  37. J. E. J. (1971). Action. [REVIEW] Review of Metaphysics 24 (3):536-537.
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  38. Pierre Janet (1927). La peur de l'action: Les terminaisons de l'action, Les échecs et Les triomphes. Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 104:5 - 21.
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  39. Marc Jeannerod (2006). From Volition to Agency: The Mechanism of Action Recognition and its Failures. In Natalie Sebanz & Wolfgang Prinz (eds.), Disorders of Volition. MIT Press.
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  40. Steven Jensen (2008). Exterior Actions as Signs of Intention. Semiotics:730-734.
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  41. Steven J. Jensen (2010). Getting Inside the Acting Person. International Philosophical Quarterly 50 (4):461-471.
    John Finnis claims that in order to judge actions we must approach them from the perspective of the acting person, so that the moral evaluation of actions appears to become private. This paper examines Elizabeth Anscombe’s claim that interior intentions can be discovered through exterior actions. Because deliberation is shaped by the causal features of the world, these causal structures can, when viewed from the outside, serve as a window into the private life of the mind. Therefore, we can usually (...)
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  42. Ernst Jokl (forthcoming). Human Action. Humanitas.
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  43. K. Jones (1975). Mind in Action. Philosophical Studies 24 (1):320-320.
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  44. Michael I. Jordan & David A. Rosenbaum (1989). Action. In Michael I. Posner (ed.), Foundations of Cognitive Science. Mit Press. 727--767.
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  45. Elliot L. Jurist (1997). Affects and Agency: An Interdisciplinary, Psychoanalytic Study. Dissertation, City University of New York
    There is currently a burgeoning interest in affects across a number of disciplines--philosophy, psychology, neuroscience and psychoanalysis. Yet, it remains unclear to what extent one can infer that a common set of problems and concerns exists. In this project, therefore, I undertake an interdisciplinary inquiry with the aim of providing conceptual clarity about the meaning and function of affects. In particular, I begin with the history of philosophy; then I turn to focus upon psychology--exploring the notion of "basic emotions" as (...)
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  46. Shelly Kagan (1988). Causation and Responsibility. American Philosophical Quarterly 25 (4):293 - 302.
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  47. J. Nicolas Kaufmann (1995). "Philosophie de L'Action. Contribution Critique À la Théorie Analytique de l'Action", Par Marc Neuberg. [REVIEW] Dialogue 34:420.
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  48. Pauline Marie Kaurin (1997). Agency and Character: A View of Action and Agency. Dissertation, Temple University
    Standard accounts in action theory, given by Davidson, Hornsby, Thalberg and Chisholm explain action and agency by reducing them to descriptions, mental states and/or bodily movements. I argue such accounts are insufficient; they fail to take into account the full range of agency. Agency is individual and social. When agents perform actions, they consider ideas, beliefs and desires that are part of a social, moral and conventional network; these also give meaning and significance to the agent's actions. By isolating the (...)
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  49. Kenneth W. Kemp (1994). Right Intention and the Oil Factor in the Second Gulf War. Philosophy in the Contemporary World 1 (1):15-20.
    This essay responds to the argument that US interest in Kuwaiti oil made its war against Iraq fail the just-war criterion of right intention. That argument is based on a misunderstanding of the criterion, namely, that right intention requires not merely the presence of a concern for justice but the absence of any other (especially self-interested) motives. Correction of this misunderstanding is important to application of the just-war theory to the general question of intervention in foreign wars.
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  50. Anthony Kenny (1966). Intention and Purpose. Journal of Philosophy 63 (20):642-651.
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